Loudoun Co. schools tighten social media access for middle school students

Public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, are attempting to rein in misuse of social media by middle school students on school-issued Chromebooks.

The School Board’s Technology Steering Committee Wednesday night will discuss social media access for students, and hear about recent challenges and changes in an informational briefing.

While social media access and usage on mobile phones is largely between parent and child, access to social media and websites on school-provided Chromebooks for students is restricted.

Social media access is blocked for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students between sixth and 12th grade have been able to access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. All other social media sites have been blocked.

After a survey of middle school principals and other administrators, the school system’s Department of Digital Innovation on June 13 blocked access to social media sites for middle school students using Chromebooks. It’s not known whether the School Board will make any policy changes.

According to a staff presentation for Wednesday’s meeting, the survey found social media access isn’t needed for any middle school curriculum or school practice.

In addition, middle schools reported student behavior issues and distractions based on having access to the social media sites.

About 100 students had individual blocks for social media, based upon requests from their parents or from school staff due to previous behavior problems.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Google Chat was blocked after multiple reports of misuse, according to LCPS staff. Students then moved the inappropriate behavior to an online platform, after which the digital innovation department blocked additional websites for middle school students.

A spokeswoman for the school system said in a statement, “LCPS ensures that students have access on LCPS-issued devices to the platforms and programs they need for learning. Removing access on LCPS-issued devices to social platforms not necessary as learning resources aligns such access with instructional practices.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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